Staging the Perfect Home

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If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, chances are you spend some time watching HGTV reruns of House Hunters.  Ever notice the look on prospective buyers’ faces as they walk through the really dumpy properties?  The fact is that so many people neglect to prepare their properties before showing it to potential buyers.  Overstuffed closets, stained carpets, dirty bathrooms, dull kitchens and family rooms with so much junk scattered all over the place that the buyers can barely see the space – all these things are a huge hindrance to selling successfully.
This week we just listed a home for one of our clients and the way they set up their space is perfect.  As you can see in the video, the homeowners have taken the time to arrange furniture in a way that highlights the home’s gorgeous features and open floor plan.  Plenty of tasteful accessories have been used to dot the space with color, interest and life.  There are even some touches of their personal life, though not overdone by any means. 

The key to preparing a show-ready home is to put yourself in the buyers’ eyes.  Going back to House Hunters episodes – how many times did buyers’ eyes light up when they walked into an open, well-lit home that was obviously cared for by its owners?  And if you pay attention, you’ll notice that more often than not, the homes that don’t seem to cared for by their owners are usually the ones that get passed up.

Tips on How to Make Sure Your Property Shows Well

Nothing turns off buyers more than a home that is dirty.  As they walk through the house they are imagining living there but dirty bathrooms, unclean windows, or unkempt rooms are unattractive.  Rather than risk buyers only remember that aspect of your home, make sure you clean the space, have carpets professionally steam cleaned, power wash windows, clear up driveways and make the home presentable.

Clutter acts as an obstacle that does not allow buyers to see the actual features of your home.  If possible, box up things like extra shoes, overflowing closets, unkempt toys or messy areas in the home.  Keeping the space clear of clutter will not only make the space inviting, it will also allow the prospective owners to imagine their own things in the space.  A common turnoff that many sellers neglect to take care of before showing their home is a fridge filled with personal notes, pictures, schedules and other traces of the current family’s life. 

If your home’s best feature is the great room, be sure to emphasize it bylighting it well and clearing all to and from areas for easy flow through access.  If the large backyard is a favorite selling feature, remove all leaves and landscaping clutter.  It is important not to ignore maintenance details such as mowing the lawn or tidying up the hedges.

How you set up your home will have a major impact on how it is received.  By setting up the furniture and arranging other items in a way that highlights the desirable aspects of your home while working with the space encompassing the area, buyers will want to see more.


Imagine your home is going to be photographed for a magazine.  What would you do to prepare before the photographer arrived?

Are Bi-Weekly Mortgage Payments Worth the Time and Effort?

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In most cases, yes! It’s essentially a process by which you make extra payments on your mortgage. That way, you save interest costs and pay off the loan faster.

How Does It Work?

You make a payment to your lender every two weeks instead of once a month. This means that each payment is equal to half of the monthly amount due. The result – you’re paying the equivalent of 13 full payments rather than the usual 12.

It gets even better! The full amount of the extra payment is applied toward the principal. And because the principal balance is the amount on which interest is calculated, paying down principal results in a reduction in accrued interest!

Let’s look a traditional payment monthly schedule vs. a bi-weekly schedule so you can see exactly how it works.

Example 1: Traditional monthly payments

Let’s assume you have a loan balance of $250,000 with a 6 percent interest rate and a 30-year loan term. In this example, your monthly payments are $1,498.88. So, over the life of the loan, you’d pay a total interest of about $289,595.

Example 2: Bi-weekly payments

Using the same loan balance and terms described above, the difference would be the following:

• $749.44 paid every two weeks
• About $225,490 paid in total interest
• This results in a savings of more than $64,000 in interest!
• In addition, the loan is paid off in 24 rather than 30 years

Bi-monthly payments are still a good strategy if you’re an individual who doesn’t plan to keep your house for 24 or 30 years. Why? Because bi-weekly payments still reduce principle, even over a short period of time.

For example, in the first year, the principle is reduced by nearly $1,600. And, at the end of the fifth year, the principle amount has been reduced by about $9,000!

How Do I Arrange Bi-Weekly Payments?

The first task is to contact lenders to find out if they do offer a bi-weekly payment schedule.

If they offer one, ask what the participation requirements are. In typical situations, lenders require you to have payments automatically withdrawn from your bank account since they dislike processing checks every two weeks.

Often, it’s the case that a one-time fee is charged for this service. The fee can be minimal or be in the several-hundred-dollar range, depending on the lender.

So, after all these benefits, how can there possibly be disadvantages to bi-weekly mortgage payments?

Well, the first disadvantage relates to a situation I mentioned above - the lender’s fee is very expensive for the service provided. In such a case, the costs may outweigh or cut down your overall savings.
A second disadvantage occurs when paying bi-weekly is too hard on your budget. Upfront, you need to make sure that you have the money available for the increased payments.

The final potential disadvantage relates to the length of time you plan to stay in your home. That can affect your overall savings on interest.

I recommend that you weigh the pros and cons of bi-weekly mortgage payments by using one of the many online calculators. Just enter your numbers and the calculator will give you a comparison.

If you’d like the assistance of an expert on the subject, contact us immediately!

Home Maintenance Does More Than You Think

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For some, the phrase “home maintenance” might sound like a great way to spend a weekend, while to others it might seem like a dreaded, even avoided, task. However you view routine home maintenance, the fact of the matter is that this somewhat simple task, if done consistently, can increase your home’s value over time.

Increased Property Value

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth of a pound of cure.” This is certainly true when it comes to your home. In fact, proactive maintenance is essential to preserving the value of your home. If you ignore this important task, your home could actually lose 10% of its value over time.

There are a number of benefits you can expect from just making sure you home is kept in decent shape with occasional maintenance. For one, your curb appeal is improved by just simple acts of routine upkeep from time to time. Ultimately, your home reflects your attention to detail, or lack thereof.

Neglecting a home can greatly bring down the value of any property. Things like a house with chipped or fading paint, sagging gutters, or worn carpeting leads to a problem when it is time to sell. Not only does the work accumulate over time, so do the costs. A few simple fixes every year can add up to an increased home value over time.

Cost vs. Value

It’s easy to look at the cost of regular home repairs as a burden that might be able to be avoided. However, it is important to look at the value that you are placing in your home by performing the regular costs of upholding a well-built and maintained home.

A study out of the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University suggests that home maintenance can actually increase a home’s value by about 1% each year. Instead of viewing the routine tasks around a home as “chores,” these tasks should be looked at as a money maker. When you sell your home, you will reap their rewards.

Dr. John P. Harding, Professor of Finance and Real Estate at the University of Connecticut’s School of Business and an author of the study said, “It’s like going to the gym. You have to put in the effort to see the results. People and houses are somewhat similar – the older they are, the more work is needed.”

Some years what needs to be down may be more expensive than others, but it is the overall strategy to keep a “fit” home that should be the ultimate goal.

Proactive Maintenance Strategies

Budgeting for home repairs each year will prevent them from seeming like a burden each year. Knowing there will be a certain amount of money going to home repairs and upkeep makes them a regular part of your annual routine. They won’t be a source of financial devastation they can be for many families.

Other things to keep in mind to take the burden out of home maintenance include:

Play offense, not defense. Being proactive is vital in preventing a small problem becoming a mountain of problems. By having a regular inspections and creating a maintenance schedule, you are in control, for the most part, of home expenses, instead of the other way around.

Focus on a room a year. If you home is generally in good order, you may be at a loss of where to start. By targeting a room each year, you can inspect each and every item in that particular room and know where improvements can be made. This prevents an overwhelmed feeling with you looking at your entire house, scratching you head of where to start.

Keep track. Maintain a notebook or computer file to keep track of all of the maintenance and upgrades you perform is important. Also, either keep a physical file of paper receipts or a file on your computer where can put your scanned receipts. This helps you keep track of what you have done and also helps you prove to a potential buyer exactly what you have done to the home. It also shows you are a conscientious homeowner who has paid attention to the details of your home.

Home maintenance is an important task that should not be overlooked. Not only does it maintain a nice home while you live there, it also helps increase your home’s value when you are ready to sell.

For more on home maintenance visit Bob Vila's home maintenance checklist here!

Want to Add Value to Your Home? Get Into the Kitchen and the Bathroom!

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Everyone knows that – all things being equal – the first areas buyers look at when considering the purchase of the home are the kitchen and the bathroom. They know they’re heavily-used areas and also the most expensive to upgrade. So, buyers want to know they’re in great shape or need, at most, minor repairs.

This tells you that you need to make the kitchen and bathroom “shine” in terms of their appeal. By some estimates, you can earn back 80 to 90 percent of your money in resale value!

Here’s more good news! Depending upon the state of these rooms, improvements don’t have to be all that expensive! Let’s look at the kitchen first.

Making Your Kitchen Shine!

The first bit of advice for you actually applies to both the kitchen and the bathroom – use paint! In fact, use high-quality paint. It’s a fact of life that kitchen walls get spattered with grease and food (especially if you have kids!), and bathroom walls get battered with steam and moisture.

So, the first thing to do is to take a look at those walls, clean them, and then paint them. And consider the color carefully. It should be a color that’s relaxing and tends toward a neutral tone.

Once you’ve chosen a color, spend the money on good paint, not the cheap stuff. It’ll look better, and buyers will notice that it’ll resist stains and water for a longer period of time than lower quality paint. It’ll also tell them that you’ve taken good care of your home.

Another inexpensive “fix” you can do yourself is, of course, the faucets over the sink (or the sink itself). A visit to a “big box” store like Home Depot, Menards, etc. will cost you little money. All you have to do is invest some “sweat equity.”

Of course, fresh curtains always spruce up a kitchen as well as orderly counters, islands, etc. And don’t forget lighting! Warm, friendly lighting can make a huge impact upon a buyer’s first impression. 

Another area to look at is the kitchen floor. If it’s worn, I’d recommend that you replace it with a hard-wearing material. Everyone knows the kitchen is a high-traffic area so they’ll look closely at the floor to see if they’ll have to bear the expense of replacing it.

Again, if you have handyman abilities, you can do this yourself. There are many inexpensive materials available today that are relatively easy to put in – high-quality tile, laminate floors that clean up easily, etc. 

In terms of kitchen cabinets and counters, you may want to consider refinishing them or replacing them if they’re in bad shape. This can be rather expensive, of course, but it also might make the difference between a sale and the home staying on the market.

Moving on up in terms of expenditures, buyers today expect modern appliances in the kitchen – stoves, dishwashers, etc.

These are big ticket items, of course, but if your appliances are worn or out-of-date, think about replacing them, especially if you’re having trouble selling your home.

Look for sales on modern higher-end appliances such as the ones available at Sears, etc. Buyers will spot cheap ones in a heartbeat, and this can cost you a sale.

Today’s buyers look for spacious kitchens that open on to another room and which have a window over the sink. Obviously, if your kitchen doesn’t have these features, it would be far too expensive to put them in.

However, you can make your kitchen look as open as possible. Make sure the counters are clear, visible pots and pans are ordered neatly, and the floor is free of clutter.

Okay, now onto the bathroom!

Making Your Bathroom Shine!

If your bathroom is in good to great shape, then it’s a simple matter of paint, as I mentioned before, and a good all-round clean up. Since we’re dealing with sanitary issues, you want this area to sparkle as much as possible.

But, what if the shower, tub, sink, or toilet are not in great shape or are out of date? Well, then, I’d recommend that you do a whole remodel.

It can be expensive, but when you replace, say, just one item, it can create an unharmonious look. Ideally, you want the sinks, faucets, toilets, showerheads, tile, etc. to match to make the bathroom look as unified and appealing as possible.

Depending upon your expertise, you can install these items yourself at a lower cost. If not, hire an expert to do the work, especially if your home has been on the market a long time and isn’t selling.

Okay, here’s one last suggestion. It’s an expensive one but it’s been proven to add value to your home – add a second bathroom!

One-bathroom houses are simply harder to sell and sell for less than ones with two or three bathrooms. 

So, if you have the financial wherewithal, consider adding one. A good place for a second bathroom is right off the master bedroom. This will appeal to buyers with children since they’ll have a space separate from the kids.

Also, if for some reason, you decide not to sell, a second bathroom can make life easier for you if you have children as well!

Want to hear some more suggestions for improving the value of your home? Contact me today and we can talk about some inexpensive methods of doing just that!

The Truth About Buying Distressed Real Estate; Are Short Sales and Foreclosures Really a Good Deal?

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There is no doubt about it. Some buyers have landed incredible deals buying real estate that was sold either as a short sale, foreclosure or bank owned property. But was there really a deal?  The truth is that it all depends. It depends on whether or not you found a property in good, sale-able condition. It also depends on the location of the property plus its potential value in the long run. Either way, buyers that do opt to pursue a distressed property in their home-buying endeavors will face some challenges.

Timing Is Everything – And Distressed Sale Timing Is Unpredictable
Let’s say you found your dream home – or maybe you found a distressed sale property in a location that you have always desired but could never afford, until now. Though it sounds like a win-win situation with a potentially lower price and the great location – it is important to keep in mind that the process can drag on unpredictably. Unlike conventional sales, distressed sales are dependent on the bank (or banks) involved and entail several more steps than a conventional property purchase.

At the beginning of the post-market crash period when short sales first began appearing more frequently in the market, many buyers were dismayed to find that the process could take as much as a year in some cases. The reason for this is that banks must approve the purchase price that was set by the seller. Since in the case of short sales, the bank is owed more money than what the property is worth, there is a sizable difference that must be reconciled upon sale. So when you make an offer on such a property hoping to get a good deal, the bank has to agree to that price first.

More recently, short sales have become more streamlined and can take a lot less time but still the process can add up to months of waiting – something difficult to manage for buyers that are also selling their home. Further, if the purchase is taking place due to a time-sensitive situation such relocation then the timing can be a deal breaker.

Financing Required for Distressed Sales May Be More Difficult to Obtain
One fact about traditional financing that many buyers may not realize is that lenders require certain viability on the properties they lend against. Of course this is because the property serves as collateral against the loan. But when dealing with short sales or foreclosed properties this can become roadblock since a lot of these properties are without major components of the home. Things like an incomplete kitchen, uninhabitable bathrooms or unusable living space can hinder a bank’s willingness to accept a mortgage.

With interest rates as low as they are and inventory fast dwindling in many areas – this is the time to buy if you are looking to buy. But the good deals go beyond just distressed properties so it is important to work with a real estate agent that can provide you the sort of guidance necessary to tap into all areas. Time is running out though – so we advise you to contact us today!

How We Are Using Technology to Sell Your Home

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It is no secret that today is a “here and now” world. Whether this means that people want access to information instantly, or expect to receive communications on a much faster level, things have changed. The fact is that technology has changed the stakes in the real estate industry. In fact, with the advent of smartphones and the relatively recent influx of them in our daily lives, it seems that everyone has one to use it for business and for personal use.

In terms of real estate, how can using technology help us as your Realtors to get you the best possible outcome on your deals? Simple. We use it in every aspect of the business. When you list your home with us, we use real time instant access through our smartphones to share with you up to date information about your listing. When we receive any communications showing buyer interest, we instantly let you know because we have access to the countless inquiries that come in our MLS for our properties. When a buyer browses your listing, we find out and we pass that information along.

Effective Marketing

In terms of marketing, we use the technology in myriad ways. Starting with including your property on countless search engines.  These are accessible on exclusively designed mobile access sites for people to easily search while on the go. Our reach is extended far and wide due to social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others – all allow for instant access to your listing as well as provides an opportunity for interactive feedback on the property. With exclusive subscriptions to some specialized search engines, when buyers from all over the region seek properties that match your listing, we are notified instantly and the buyers are provided our information to contact us.

Seamless Communication

Seamless communication with each other in our offices allows us to be able to get contracts and paperwork done quickly and efficiently. Unlike the old school method of needing to have you come in to the office for each addendum or amendment on your contract, technology saves everyone time, allowing us to focus on more important aspects of your purchase or sale. If there are questions or concerns, we are accessible virtually around the clock at our clients’ convenience – all due to technological advances that make it possible.

Regular Stream of Information

As evident in the video you received from us where we share information with you regularly, we utilize face-to-face methods of communication that are built on convenience and customization. Our clients have the freedom to control when they can hear from us, in a whole new way. Through our videos, we provide detailed and updated information about market data, statistics, trends and other relevant issues so that when the time comes for you to implement your real estate goals, you are prepared and armed with the knowledge you need to proceed.
Gone are the days where you would leave a message for your real estate agent, hoping to hear back from them the same week. Now, with the use of technology, you can achieve success with your real estate endeavors given the utmost convenience and efficiency. We invite you to contact us today so we can work with you to make your real estate dreams become reality.

Why Getting An Appraisal Before Selling Your Property Makes Sense; Plus Some Prep Tips

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At a time when all transactions from the seller’s perspective are a welcome occurrence, it only makes sense to do anything and everything we can to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.  One area to be wary of is when it comes to the selling price of the home.  It is definitely a buyers’ market these days and buyers know it.  Their savvy comes to the surface when the most important part of the transaction occurs – settling on a price.  

Preparedness on the seller’s part is one way to make sure that there are no surprises for either party.  By making sure that the home is accurately priced to begin with, there will be less time wasted in going back and forth, the home will be sold within fewer Days On Market and all sides of the transaction will be happy.

What Exactly is an Appraisal?

An appraisal is when a professional visits a home or property and through a series of steps, observations and comparisons makes an assessment as to what the fair market value is for the property.  Typically this is done at the request of a bank that has been sought to provide a loan to homeowners wanting to purchase the home in question, however more and more often existing homeowners are having their homes appraised prior to listing the property on the market.

Among factors that are considered when determining the fair market value of a home are the physical condition of the home, its structure and functionality – plus also the performance of other homes on the market or those that recently sold in the neighborhood.  A comparison is made based on other, similar homes in the area. 

It is important not to confuse a home appraisal with a home inspection.  A home inspection is a detailed account of every last working aspect of the home and its condition, whereas an appraisal is more general. The cost of having an appraisal done is on average anywhere from $300 to $500, with the end result being a detailed report outlining all the factors looked at by the professional appraiser. 

What is the Benefit of Getting An Appraisal Done?
In most cases the buyers’ lending institution will have its own appraisal done on a property they have been asked to finance.  However as a seller, if you have had one done in advance, it will give you the advantage and edge of knowing the ballpark range that your home is currently valued at so that you can accurately price your property to sell.  The greatest advantage is that you can go into a transaction with potential buyers knowing that your price is realistic.  There is a growing occurrence of bank-appointed appraisers coming in with values that run less than the listed price and also less than what the buyer and seller had agreed on. To avoid the unnecessary waste of time, loss of interest in the property on the buyers’ part or the potential loss of sale altogether, it makes sense for the seller to know what to expect in advance. 

How to Prepare for an Appraisal
Our tips on how to get ready for an appraisal can potentially yield a better result.

  •  Complete all maintenance (interior and exterior) including correcting any problems plus maintaining the yard and home’s exterior
  •  Share with the appraiser all new installations and improvements made to the home
  •   Be aware of selling prices of other homes in the neighborhood
  •   Be ready to explain and demonstrate why your home is different than others in the area
  •  Maintain up-to-date knowledge of your real estate market prices
  •   Keep a polite attitude with the appraiser and provide them full access to all areas of your home
  •   Treat your appraisal day as if it were an open house day, keeping your home in tip top shape, neat and clean so they can see the home for what it is rather than have their judgment be clouded by distractions

Understanding Your Credit Report

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Credit outlook is the most important aspect of the financial lives of millions of Americans.  In fact, it is almost as unique as a thumbprint so it should be guarded and carefully protected.  Not only does your credit report share an in-depth insight into your most personal financial details but it also shows those people that are accessing the report a lot about your financial personality.

So if you are buying a home or automobile, want a credit card, have applied for new phone service or anything else that requires the pulling of your credit report, beware and be aware of what is on your report.

A Credit Report Is a Glimpse Of Your Financial Lifestyle
Though mortgage companies view a different version than you do, bear in mind that the details are very much available and ready to see to any creditor that chooses to look over the history of your financial responsibility.  The single most determining factor in deciding your mortgage application aside from your income eligibility and a few other aspects, is your FICO score.  Lenders take the average of all three scores obtained from the three reporting agencies but when you view your report you will have access to one FICO score rather than the average of all three.  You will however be able to view the same detailed information visible to creditors.

The basics will be included on the report but in addition there will also be contact information for each of your creditors, type of credit, the loan and/or credit amount that corresponds with each and the date each line of credit was established. There will also be information about any judgments against you and any settlements you may have made in the past.  Any derogatory things such as repossessions, bankruptcy, past due amounts or debts that have gone to collection will be included on the credit report as well. There is a new trend that has become more prevalent with many creditors, where agencies report your rental payment history and other things showing how responsible you are with debt in situations other than just those that appear on a standard credit report . The CoreLogic® CoreScore report is a new report that almost acts as Big Brother, reporting a lot more detail on your spending habits as a consumer.

Things To Look Out For When Reviewing Your Credit Report
One of the best things you can do for your financial health is to pull your credit report at least once every six months.  Check your report for any discrepancies and most importantly be aware of your financial situation.

If the balance owed is very close to or equal to the maximum high balance limit on any or all of your lines of credit it raises a red flag to potential creditors.  That shows you have reached the maximum credit limit on a number of your responsibilities, and it is a factor that could get in the way of your obtaining new credit.  As soon as you see your credit has reached about 80% of the maximum limit it is a good idea to start paying your debt down as soon as possible. 
Additionally, if you see any derogatory items that are inaccurate you should work to resolve them by contacting the creditor and setting the record straight.


The best way to ensure strong financial health is to be aware, stay up to date on your report and maintain accuracy.  Using the report as a tool you can guide your financial situation to where you want to be and once there, be sure to stay on top.  For assistance in pulling your credit report or any other inquiries you may have, contact your loan officer or Realtor today!

Keller Williams RED Day Gives Back

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Nothing is better than people extending a helping hand to others and to emulate our year-round work ethic the Keller Williams team, nationwide, spends a day helping our communities in need. Each May on the second Thursday of the month we get together with our team members and follow through with the commitment “Renew, Energize and Donate”.

This year we worked to fix up an apartment and while doing so we had a chance to work together – something that we do not often get to do in today’s busy day and age. In the past we have rebuilt parks, refurbished dilapidated areas needing some TLC, cleaned up beaches, given our time and resources to shelters – and so much more.

Held in honor of our Vice Chairman of the Board Mo Anderson, RED DAY is something that all of us look forward to each year. To find out more about RED DAY, please visit the Keller Williams national website here – you will be inspired by the motivation behind this fantastic cause!

Thank you for your time and I look forward to supporting you in all of your real estate needs!